Excerpt About Empathy

Opening the Relational Field

Empathy is an extremely important characteristic for us to have in order to open up the relational field and support it to develop. When we are in relation to another, the limitations of our empathy, sensitivity, and attunement will limit how much that field will open. If we believe that we know a person as much as he can be known, we have closed the book on him. And it is not unusual that we come to merely serve a function for one another after a while. The other becomes some sort of thing that has a useful place in your life: You get up, and your breakfast is already on the table. You down it hurriedly, tossing off your thanks, and your wife says, “That’s what I’m here for.” You run out the door saying, “Great, see you later; I’m off to work”—and she thinks, “Great, that’s what you’re here for.” There is no longer a development of anything new. Everything is simply about maintaining familiar roles. Being together might even be pleasant, but it’s not alive. Maybe there is nothing bad about this—it works and we do need to have agreements and a division of labor in our relationships. But not at the expense of the relationship itself. We all have roles we fulfill for one another, but the relationship becomes empty after a while if that’s all there is. If we are only with each other for what is useful, eros goes to sleep, saying, “Come back later when you’ve freshened up!” The excitement and thrill of eros are important for nurturing the aliveness of a relationship. This aliveness is what enables the relational field to continue to open, to grow, to develop and renew. Through the support and sensitivity of empathic attunement, two individuals not only grow within the relationship but also become more united as one living field.

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